NEW ORLEANS -- These are the stories of women who filed for restraining orders in New Orleans. They’ve been beaten, raped and had their lives threatened.
“He tells me every day if I leave him he’s going to kill me”
“June 2010 he pulled a gun to my head”
“In 2006 he put a gun to my head twice for talking to male friends and said I had to call them and say don’t call anymore or he would blow my brains out.”
“He keeps a loaded gun in our residence in New Orleans so I only go to our apartment when he is not there”
What they’ve gone through is troubling, but Mary Claire Landry of the New Orleans Family Justice Center says what’s also disturbing is the protection they don’t get.
“He has over $100,000 worth of guns at his disposal,” one survivor told police.
In these cases, not one of the accused abusers was ordered to turn over their guns, despite state laws requiring them to.
“You would think that a threat would be significant enough to warrant that, but you’d be surprised how often questions of gun or possession of gun doesn’t even come into the hearing,” Landry said.
In 2017, there were 1,411 domestic cases in New Orleans and that’s only counting victims who came forward for protection. We went through each case and found 249 that mention weapons, yet the number of times a firearms surrender order was issued was just four.
“Out of all these cases within the year, there were only four firearm surrender orders, does that seem low to you? Absolutely,” Landry said. “Survivors’ lives depend on this. We know 70 percent of survivors are killed by a weapon, by a gun.”
In these cases, not one accuser was ordered to turn in their gun.
A 2017 report found that nationwide, more than 1,600 women were murdered by men in one year. The most common weapon used was a gun and the state of Louisiana ranks third among the deadliest states for women.
“It’s the biggest violation for someone to be abused and violated in their own home, especially by someone who says they love you,” Landry said.
State and federal law makes it illegal for an accused abuser to possess a gun but few parishes have a system in place to confiscate those weapons.
“The law really serves no purpose if there’s not a process of procedure,” Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre said. “It’s just a piece of paper, a meaningless law.”
But the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s office gave meaning to that law by putting a system in place to make sure people that are prohibited from having guns don’t have them.
It’s part of the Sheriff’s Department’s police social services. Sheriff Webre says as soon as they have information about a protective order in place, they go into the database, review the case, set up a flag on that person’s name and make sure any guns they have are turned in.
“I think it’s one of the most significant things we can do,” Webre said. “More often than not, at least the research suggests that it’s an impulse and immediate access to the weapons allows that impulse to be acted upon.”
The end result can be deadly, but that’s something Lafourche parish hasn’t seen in years.
“We have not had a prohibited possessor commit a murder since we have been doing this,” Webre said. “That’s really significant. I know it is.”
The system is something Senator JP Morrell wants in every parish. He sponsored Senate Bill 231, which would require potential abusers to give up their firearms when a protective order is in place.
“It will be a dramatic difference as far as how many people are at risk today versus how many people will be at risk in the future,” Morrell said. “It’s very crucial.”
And it could be enforced in the near future. The bill passed the House and Senate. It’s headed to the Governor’s desk and could be implemented as early as August.
This type of protection is something victims, survivors and advocates have been waiting for, for decades and Landry says it’s only the beginning.
“We’ve really brought attention to the fact that guns really are the main killer of survivors and that removing the gun from the situation makes everybody safer,” she said. “We still don’t believe that’s the full answer, but the less that perpetrators have access to guns, the safer survivors will be.”